Film Movements That Define Today’s Cinema

We belong to a time when we watch films within the comfort of our homes or at fun multiplexes. Do we spend time thinking about the evolution of filmmaking though or the technologies employed today to make moving images with sound and special effects a reality? Not much.

The history of cinema can be traced back to the times when fascinating devices called phenakistoscopes and zoetropes offered the illusion of moving images. But, the turning point in cinematic history came in the 1890s when the world saw the invention of motion picture cameras. The initial films lasted less than a minute. Gradually, the technology developed and the first feature film `The Story of the Kelly Gang`, an Australian production, was made in 1906.

There was no stopping and cinema art continued to develop in terms of technology. However, cinema achieved another milestone when changes with respect to the content surfaced as a result of the socio-political scenario of the society. These changes did not take place simultaneously across all countries but were largely regional and limited to a particular socio—political group. This cinematic evolution in the context of the sociological and psychological makeup of a region is what we term as film movements. They are directly influenced by social issues, political systems, tragedies and disasters and the popular culture prevalent.

Some of the most famous and powerful film movements have played a significant role in developing world cinema. Here are some of them that we cinema lovers ought to know:

1.    Cinema of Attraction
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A term coined by Tom Gunning, this film movement represented the first films made from the beginning of 1895 till 1906. The principle idea behind these films was to shock and fascinate audiences.  An example of this kind of cinema is Edwin Porter’s The Great Train Robbery.

2.    Soviet Montage (the 1920s- 1930s)
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Heavily influenced by the Russian society at the time, Soviet Montage Movement began in the 1920s. It focused heavily on cut shots or montage cuts in contrast to continuity editing. This gave a novel feature to the movies of this time and got across the message in a single shot through clips or images put together.

Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin is a product of this film movement.

3.    German Expressionism
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German Expressionism took birth post the First World War, which saw the downfall of Germany. In these times of distress when western films were banned in Germany, a film movement began that emphasised on the exaggeration of the sets, costumes and lighting. Principal features of German Expressionism lay in their use of colors, shadows that gave a surreal feel to their films. These ideas later influenced directors like George Lucas and Ridley Scott.

Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, represents ideas popularised by this film movement. 

4.    French New Wave
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There came a moment in the French film industry when young film critics got tired of monotonous styles and topics used by film directors. In the late 1950s, they began a film movement that produced low budget films. Jump cuts, tracking shots, which later inspired works of Martin Scorsese, handheld camera work were some of the techniques that the French New Wave introduced.

5.    New Hollywood
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This was during the 1960s when USA was going through a tsunami of changes owing to war and distress. It is often noticed that it is during such tiring times that there occurs an upheaval in the development of arts. Hollywood evolved, New Hollywood emerged; films that were directly influenced by foreign films. They focussed on notorious topics of sex, drugs and violence.

The films of Martin Scorsese and Terrence Malick truly define this movement.

6.    Italian Neorealism
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Students of film studies and cinephiles will definitely remember watching ‘Bicycle Thieves`, the best representation of the Italian Neorealism Movement. Films inspired by this movement showed realistic and gritty stories with sometimes unhappy endings. Stories about poverty, crime, joy, sadness and using lower class non-actors in the films were the trademarks of this significant film movement.

Martin Scorsese is a big fan of Italian Neorealism and its products.

7.    Hong Kong New Wave
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This particular movement is responsible for the popularity and evolution of crime films, mainly those depicting martial arts. The filmmakers who were a part of this film movement were highly inspired by the French and Italian cinema of that time. The film Days of Being Wild is an apt example.

8.    South Korean New Wave
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South Korean films tried depicting their own realities through dark stories and equally dark narrations. Their film style was directly influenced by Pansori, a Korean style of musical storytelling. Though gory, the films inspired by this movement contained rich stories and extreme emotions.

`Oldboy` and `A Tale of Two Sisters` are some of the finest products of this movement.

9.    Parallel Cinema
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Indian cinema, for the longest time, has been found guilty of creating films that rarely go beyond song and dance sequences. However, a wind of change was observed when Bengali cinema, inspired by rich Bengali literature and Italian Neorealism, narrated parallel stories of human suffering and emotions through thought-provoking dramas.

The most famous of such intelligent filmmakers in India was Satyajit Ray who later inspired a generation of film directors like Deepa Mehta, Mani Ratnam and Mira Nair to make serious cinema.

10.    Romanian New Wave
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The new found freedom by young filmmakers motivated them to discover this Romanian New Wave. Films that represented this film movement were, often, a mirror to the mixed emotions about capitalism that people had in their minds.

The most notable film is `Tales from the Golden Age` directed by Hanno Hofer.

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